SELECTED RESCUES - YOSAR responded to 244 calls in 2009
10-14-09 - Soaked Hikers Evacuated from Glacier Point
Six hikers ascended the Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point in stormy weather, intending to warm up at the gift shop and take the shuttle bus back to Yosemite Valley. Cold, soaked, and exhausted from the rain and snow, the hikers were horrified to find that the storm had closed the Glacier Point Road and the gift shop.
Several groups each year arrive at Glacier Point to find it a snowy, inhospitable and deserted dead end. CHECK TRAIL CONDITIONS BEFORE HIKING TO GLACIER POINT, especially from October to May. Visit the NPS Trail Conditions page before taking your hike.
8-23-09 - Missing Hiker Found
Ben Wong, the 18-year-old hiker overdue in the park since August 21, has been found alive and well after falling behind schedule and briefly loosing the trail near Ten Lakes. Thank you to those who responded to YOSAR's missing person announcement. In this case, a tip from a visitor helped refine YOSAR's search area and more quickly locate Wong.
When people are missing in the backcountry, it can be just as helpful for search investigators to hear from you where and when the missing person was not seen in order to complete a timeline and focus the search area. Thanks again for your help in making this mission a success.
8-17-09 - Fisherman Dies in Fall - Merced River
Keith Robinson, 62, left his home after work to fish in the park on August 17th. When he failed to return by the following morning, he was reported overdue to park dispatch. Rangers found his vehicle in a pullout near Windy Point and began searching for him. They soon found his body and determined that he’d died from injuries suffered in a fall. Windy Point is a designated pullout along the side of Highway 140 just west of the Arch Rock entrance station. Access to the river from the pullout is through steep and rocky terrain.
8-14-09 - Fatal Hiker Fall - Cloud's Rest
A hiker made a 911 call to park dispatch from the summit of Cloud’s Rest (9,926 feet) around noon on August 18 and reported that a 53-year-old woman had taken a tumbling fall from the summit and ended up on a ledge about 80 feet below, adding that other visitors had scrambled down to her location and reported that she was breathing but suffering from a severe head injury and unresponsive. Clifford Ashley, a wilderness patrol ranger, was in the area; he arrived on scene shortly thereafter, scrambled down to her, and began treatment. Yosemite's contract helicopter was launched and ranger/medics Jeff Webb and Matt Stark heli-rappeled to the ledge. They found that the woman – later identified as Marie Brizzard of North Hollywood, California – was shocky and extremely unstable. She was packaged and short-hauled with Stark to Ahwahnee Meadow, then taken to the Yosemite Medical Clinic to be stabilized before transport to a hospital. Brizzard died of her injuries while at the clinic.
6-6-09 - Fall From Half Dome Cables:
Detailed witness account of the near-fatal fall and rescue.
A Half Dome hiker fell from the summit cables during inclement weather and sustained critical injuries. A coordinated air and ground rescue response succeeded in evacuating the patient to definitive care in time to save her life.
The Half Dome Cables route is extremely slick and dangerous during wet weather. The cables are also highly prone to lightening strikes. Do not attempt the Half Dome Cables when wet or stormy.
7-20-09 - Two Visitors Nearly Drown At Emerald Pool
Park dispatch received numerous 911 calls reporting a near-drowning at Emerald Pool along the Merced River early on the afternoon of July 20th. This area can only be reached via a steep, approximately two-mile hike from the Valley floor. The park fire/rescue helicopter was unavailable due to an out-of-park assignment. Fortunately, UC Merced wilderness leadership intern Andres Estrada happened to be on foot patrol in the area and provided the incident commander with an initial size-up within about 20 minutes. A 53-year-old man had attempted to swim across the swift and cold waters of the pool and had become unresponsive. Bystanders pulled him from the water and are credited with saving his life. The man reportedly suffered a two minute loss of consciousness and was revived via chest compressions and rescue breaths. Ranger/park medic Matt Stark was immediately dispatched from the Valley to render assistance and arrived on scene in just under an hour. While Stark was caring for and evacuating the man, a second near-drowning incident occurred at the pool. Litter teams ultimately carried both individuals out to the Valley. Ropes were used to belay the teams through about 200 feet of steep terrain along the trail. The first victim was flown via Air Med to Modesto for advanced medical care that evening; the second victim was cared for at Yosemite Medical Clinic. Approximately 20 rescuers were involved in the operation. Emerald Pool is closed to swimming and is so designated by signs and an information board notice.
7-15-09 - Body of Katrin Lehmann Recovered
On July 15th, the body of Katrin Lehmann, a German national, was recovered from the Merced River below Vernal Falls by YOSAR personnel. During a violent thunderstorm and downpour on May 18th, Lehmann fell from the Mist Trail into the raging Merced River, which was at peak spring runoff. Witnesses said that she fell off the trail, slid down a steep wet rock wall, then clung to a boulder in the river before being washed downstream by the strong current. On July 14th, YODOGS, a volunteer search dog team group, alerted in one area along the river. Supported by additional searchers, staff were able to locate Lehman’s partially submerged body, which was found wedged between a rock and a log in a swift water section of river approximately 150 yards downstream from the point where she was last seen. Two drooping high lines were used in the recovery operation – one for rescue Ranger Aaron Smith and one for Lehmann’s body. Park forestry personnel using tree climbing equipment established the anchor points for the high lines about 80 feet up cedar trees located on each side of the river. The Mist Trail along the Merced River was closed for approximately 40 minutes during the recovery. Sixteen technical rope rescue personnel were utilized in the operation.
7-21-09 - "Rangers Rescue Climber Perched on Tiny Ledge"
Park dispatch received a cell phone call from climber Daniel Susman around 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 15th, in which Susman reported that he’d become ledged-out while scrambling on a dome near Merced Lake and that he’d need assistance getting off the ledge. He said that he wasn’t in any immediate danger, but that he was unable to ascend or descend from his location. Upon flying past, rescue personnel were shocked to discover that Susman had downplayed his predicament. They found that he was standing on minuscule ledge, clinging to the rock on a nearly vertical wall approximately 800 feet above the valley floor.
Susman’s position was deemed to be too tenuous to try to retrieve him directly by short haul. The concern was that the buffeting winds from the aircraft might dislodge Susman from his stance before he could be made secure. The pilot, Richard Shatto, and the two spotters, Jeff Pirog and Boots Davenport, had a difficult time maintaining a steady hover with the aircraft due to gusting winds. Ranger Keith Lober was short-hauled into a location 50 feet above Susman’s perch where he power drilled three anchor bolts. Ranger Eric Gabriel was then short-hauled to the anchor station. Lober lowered Gabriel down to Susman, who was then secured in a “screamer suit;” he and Gabriel were then short-hauled off the face.
Cell phone coverage in Yosemite backcountry is generally nonexistent. Susman was incredibly lucky, as the location where he became stuck was just high enough for the cell signal to peek over the surrounding rock faces and hit the Sentinel Dome repeater, the only repeater in that area of remote wilderness. Incidentally, Susman had sustained and recovered from two short falls just before deciding to stop and request help. [NPS News Release]
6-13-09 - Hiker Falls to Death Off Half Dome Cables - UPDATED
A hiker on Half Dome's famed summit cables fell to his death during wet weather, leaving dozens of other hikers stranded along the cables. Rescuers assisted the other visitors to safety.
Report updated on 7-22-09.
7-14-09 - Aid to Ill Backpacker - Vogelsang High Sierra Camp
A woman experienced a seizure while at Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. The Tuolumne SAR Team hiked in, monitored the patient over through the night, and then accompanied her back to the trailhead the following day.
7-11-09 - Helicopter Rescue of Injured Hiker - Matterhorn Peak
A man twisted his knee while hiking solo on loose talus on Matterhorn Peak, in a remote portion of Yosemite's northern wilderness. Using the "Help" feature on a GPS locator beacon device, the hiker was able to alert his wife, with whom he had thoroughly discussed his emergency plan. She dialed 911 and the injured hiker was rescued with a helicopter.
Yosemite Search and Rescue's Tuolumne Team responds to the high sierra:
7-8-09 - Assistance to Ill Backpacker - Sunrise High Sierra Camp
Tuolumne SAR responded to Sunrise High Sierra Camp for a man having difficulty breathing, possibly related to dehydration, altitude, overexertion, and alcohol consumption. Rescuers assisted the patient in resting and rehydrating and monitored his condition through the night.
7-5-09 - Helicopter Rescue of Injured Hiker - Vogelsang Peak
While attempting to descend Vogelsang Peak, a man fell and slid about 50 feet down a steep snow field, injuring his shoulder, hand, and ankle when collided with a rock talus pile. His hiking partner hiked a mile and half to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp where 911 was called on the camp's phone. The injured hiker was evacuated by helicopter about four hours after his fall.
7-4-09 – Injured Fire Fighter – Hardin Fire Operation
A firefighter working on the Hardin Fire near Hardin Lake north of the Tioga Road was stuck by a falling snag. The patient had significant back pain. Medically trained fire crew members on scene were able to stabilize and package the patient. Due to his injuries, Yosemite’s Helicopter Rescue Team was requested to perform a helicopter short haul extraction. Helicopter 551 preformed the mission and flew the patient to an awaiting air-ambulance at the Crane Flat Heli-Base.
7-4-09 – Injured Hiker – Mt. Dana
A woman fell at 12,500’ while descending the hiker’s trail of Mt. Dana. The 911 call indicated that she was suffering from neck and head pain secondary to the fall. Two Helicopter Rescue Team members flew to the Mt. Dana area and located the subject from the air. Via phone, the subject indicated that she could hike to a landing zone. The Helicopter landed on the Dana Plateau and assisted the subject down to the aircraft. The woman was flow to the Gaylor Pit LZ and transported via ground ambulance to Mammoth.
7-4-09 – Swiftwater Rescue – Merced River, Steamboat Springs
Two individuals swam across the Merced River at Steamboat Springs and were unable to return due to the power of the current. A swiftwater rescue was required to evacuate the stranded swimmers back to safety.
7-4-09 – Helicopter Rescue of Hiker – Vernon Lake
A hiker came into the Vernon Lake Trail Crew Camp complaining of a non-specific allergic reaction. She was experiencing swelling in her face and lips. It appeared that her eyes were swelling shut and she was having difficulty swallowing. Due to potential respiratory occlusion (her windpipe sweling shut), the patient was evacuated by helicopter to the Ahwahnee Meadow and taken to the medical clinic for further treatment.
7-3-09 – Helicopter Rescue of Hiker – Little Yosemite Valley
A hiker came into the Little Yosemite Valley (LYV) Ranger Station complaining of an incapacitating migraine headache that came on while he was on the Half Dome Trail. Personnel at the Yosemite Medical Clinic felt it was best to rapidly transport the patient by helicopter based on his symptoms. The patient was flown from LYV to Crane Flat Helibase where he was then transported by ambulance to the medical clinic.
7-2-09 – Stranded Hikers – Upper Yosemite Falls Trail
Three hikers were stranded after dark on the Yosemite Falls Trail due to not having lights. Following a 911 phone call, a SAR team member was dispatched to assist the party back to the valley.
7-1-09 - Helicopter Rescue of Injured Climber - Cathedral Peak
A climber was evacuated by helicopter from Cathedral Peak after taking a 30- to 40-foot fall three to four pitches up, striking her head on a ledge. She was not wearing a helmet. Climbers above rappelled to her location and called 911. Her climbing partner and the assisting climbing team were helped off the route by YOSAR.
6-29-09 – Helicopter Rescue of Hiker – Wapama Falls Trail
A group of hikers reported a woman in her late 60s complaining of chest pain approximately 35 minutes up trail. Medics hiked to the patient and requested she be flown by park helicopter 551 to the Hetch Hetchy helispot to rendezvous with medi-flight. Air Med 42 picked up the patient and transported her to Doctor’s Medical Center in Modesto.
6-28-09 - Rescue of Lost Hiker - Clouds Rest Area
A woman deliberately separated from the rest of her party due to fatigue while hiking the Sunrise Trail from Tuolumne to Clouds Rest. After summitting, the woman lost the trail on the descent. Fortunately, she was able to dial 911 for help from her cell phone. She stayed where she was until the Tuolumne SAR team was able to find her just before dark.
6-26-09 - Serious Climber Fall - Nose of El Capitan
At approximately 5:45am, a climber fell about 40 feet on the second pitch of the Nose Route on El Cap. She lost consciousness for about 10-30 seconds, had significant trauma to her face and right arm, and “road rash” along the right side of her body. The climber and her partner were able to self-rescue to the base. A litter team carried the climber to El Cap Meadow where a medi-flight transported her out of the park to a trauma hospital for treatment.
6-25-09 – Helicopter Short Haul of Hiker – John Muir Trail
A hiker on the John Muir Trail below Nevada Fall called Park Dispatch and stated he was feeling ill but would be able to continue down on his own. Approximately 40 minutes later, he called again saying his condition had worsened and he was now suffering from chest pain. Rangers blitzed up the trail and the park helicopter was ordered to perform a short haul of the patient and medic from Clark’s Point on the JMT. Once safely flown to the Valley floor, the patient was transported to the medical clinic.
6-24-09 – Carryout of Injured Hiker – Ice Cut on John Muir Trail
Park Dispatch received a report of an injured hiker on the John Muir Trail near the Ice Cut at approximately 7:00pm. Medics arrived on scene to find a woman with a possible tib/fib (bones of the lower leg) fracture. She was packaged into a litter and carried down the trail. She was transported to the Yosemite Medical Clinic for further evaluation.
6-22-09 – Carryout of Injured Hiker – 4 Mile Trail
A 49 year old female hiker severely injured her right knee approximately 1.5 miles up the 4 Mile Trail. The subject was unable to walk and required the assistance of a carryout team. Once at the trailhead, the patient was taken to the Yosemite Medical Clinic via ambulance.
6-22-09 – Carryout of Injured Hiker – Tenaya Creek Trail
A 50 year old female fell from a horse while on a guided ride approximately a quarter mile past the Tenaya Creek Bridge. Medics arrived on scene and initiated C-Spine precautions due to the mechanism of injury and the patient’s complaint of back pain. The patient was then carried to the trailhead and transported to the Yosemite Medical Clinic via ambulance.
6-20-09 – Stranded Climbers – Regular Route of Fairview Dome
A climbing team was reported overdue to Yosemite Dispatch. Tuolumne SAR members responded to the summit of Fairview Dome to locate the party. The climbers had successfully completed the climb, but were unable to find the descent route after dark. SAR members assisted them to safety.
6-20-09 – Carryout of Injured Hiker – Vernal Falls Bathroom
At approximately 5:30pm, a park visitor on a guided horse ride was unable to continue down the trail due to pressure injures in her back. The visitor required the help of a litter team. Once safely returned to the Valley floor, she was transported to the DNC stables.
6-20-09 – Carryout of Injured Hiker – Yosemite Falls Trail
A hiker on the Yosemite Falls Trail required the assistance of a carry-out team after losing consciousness for an unknown period of time and suffering paralysis to the left side of their body. The patient had a history of neck injuries and neurological disorders possibly contributing to the incident. After reaching the trailhead, the patient was transported to the Yosemite Medical Clinic for further evaluation.
6-19-09 – Swiftwater Rescue – Tuolumne River
A group of three backpackers attempted to cross the Tuolumne River 1 mile below the O’Shaughnessy Dam. The individuals underestimated the flow of the river and although the first two successfully crossed they lost their backpacks in the current. The third member was swept down river and managed to get out of the water 100 yards above a significant class 4+ rapid. The river was close to its peak runoff. Swift water trained personnel responded and brought the victim across the river to safety.
6-13-09 - Hiker Falls to Death Off Half Dome Cables
A hiker on Half Dome's famed summit cables fell to his death during wet weather, leaving dozens of other hikers stranded along the cables. Rescuers assisted the other visitors to safety.
5-20-09 - Dog Rescued from South Fork of Merced River
A family dog became stranded on a small midstream island on the South Fork of the Merced River in Wawona near Highway 41. Due to high spring runoff, the current was too strong for the dog the reach the other shore without being swept away, though it tried until exhausted. A rescue swimmer joined the dog and rigged it for a tethered pendulum to shore. Federal regulations require that pets be on leash at all times, in part to avoid Fido SARs.
5-14-09 – Carryout of Injured Hiker - Mist Trail/Nevada Fall
At 1:28pm YOSAR received a report of an injured 20 year old male at the base of Nevada Falls on the Mist Trail. The subject had sustained an arm and shoulder injury that required a carryout to be performed by NPS SAR personnel to the base of the trail. The subject was transported via ambulance for further evaluation by Yosemite Clinic Medical Staff.
5-10-09 – Carryout of Injured Hiker - Emerald Pool/Silver Apron
At 5:44pm a 62 year old female sustained a severe left ankle injury subsequent to a ground level fall on the Silver Apron (Emerald Pool area of the Mist Trail). The patient required a wheeled-litter transport to the base of the trail and ambulance transport to the Yosemite Medical Clinic.
4-24-09 – Mutual Aid to Fatal Small Plane Crash - Mono County
On April 24th a single engine aircraft left Tonopah, NV in route to Modesto, CA. The aircraft failed to close its VFR (visual flight rules) flight plan which caused the issuance of an Alert Notice (ALNOT) by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC). The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was tasked by California’s Emergency Management Agency (CALEMA) to lead the search operation. Yosemite was asked to assist on April 28th to check the Merced Lake area of the park following a possible sighting by a CAP search team. The airplane and two deceased occupants were located on May 4th 12 miles east of the city of Mammoth, CA in Mono County.
4-15-09 - Evacuation of Stranded Day Hikers - Glacier Point
Two day hikers ascended the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Fall, then followed the Panorama Trail to Glacier Point, planning to return to the Valley floor via the Four Mile Trail. However, the Four Mile Trail proved to be treacherously steep and icy and the duo wisely opted to try another option. Fortunately, the park Roads crew had punched a single 4x4 lane to Glacier Point that day and Rangers were able to retrieve the pair as darkness and a cold front arrived. Several groups each year arrive at Glacier Point to find it a snowy, inhospitable and deserted dead end. CHECK TRAIL CONDITIONS BEFORE HIKING TO GLACIER POINT, especially from October to May. Visit the NPS trail conditions page before taking your hike.
4-14-09 - Rescue of Stranded Climbing Party - Lost Arrow Spire
At about 9:00am the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center began receiving multiple 911 calls with reports of yells for help coming from the Lost Arrow Spire. At about the same time, S. Thayer contacted the SAR Office directly via a borrowed cell phone and informed Rangers that his two climbing partners were stuck in the notch of Lost Arrow Spire. Thayer explained that events caused his climbing partners to become unexpectedly benighted in the Spire’s Notch and that he did not have the means to extricate them.
Thayer, Capp, and Jimenez had planned on a single day ascent of the Lost Arrow tip. They left Camp 4 at about 6:00am but by the time they actually began technical climbing out of the notch it was almost 2:30pm. They left their packs, extra clothing, food, and water on the rim, rappelling 300 feet down into the notch with only the equipment that they were wearing.
The climb took much longer to accomplish and they were overtaken by nightfall. Deciding not to complete the traverse back to the rim, the team rappelled back to the notch. The team experienced a plethora of problems including rope drag on the last pitch and their inability to locate the one head lamp they had brought with them. Thayer was able to ascend from the notch to the rim; however, the two other members of the party were stranded in the notch during the night. The team was exposed to the deteriorating weather throughout the night without adequate clothing. The following morning, NPS rescue personnel hiked the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail and assisted them in ascending out of the Notch.
3-9 to 3-10-09 - Search for Missing Man - Yosemite Falls
On Monday, March 9, YOSAR was alerted to a man in peril at the top of Yosemite Falls. With the help of CHP helicopter H-40, the man was located on a snow-covered rock in Yosemite Creek just downstream of the Yosemite Creek bridge, a few hundred feet upstream of Upper Yosemite Fall, the highest waterfall in North America. In spite of rescuers' best efforts, the man was lost in the creek and swept over the brink.
After many days of unsuccessful searching, possible human skeletal remains have been located in Yosemite Creek below Yosemite Falls. Testing will confirm if this SAR is resolved.
2-23 to 2-24-09 - Climber Injured by Avalanche on Half Dome
A member of a Korean mountaineering party attempting Half Dome's Direct Northwest Face sustained life-threatening injuries when he was swept down the "Death Slabs" by an avalanche.